Dialog Box November 2006

6 Nov, 2006 By: Cadalyst Staff

Readers have their say.

To be considered for publication, you must sign your letters and include your company's name, address, and daytime telephone number. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity. Send letters to:
Cadalyst Dialog Box
fax: 541.984.5328
Designing in 3D
I just read your article, Plant Design Progress, on the different 3D plant design suites available, and I really found it useful. I'm currently doing research and evaluation on these types programs for our process department. During my research, I ran into a product called Plant 4D from CEA Systems. We had a demo from them, and I was really impressed. Also, a major semiconductor client of ours is starting to use Crystal intervision for one of its overseas plants. Wondering if you may have looked into these at all.
—Michael Walsh

Author Ed Goldberg responds
Thank you for the tips. I'll be sure to look into these products for my next plant design column. I am always glad to hear from someone in the field.

Economic Food Chain
Companies have chosen to look near-term these days with the attitude that "we'll worry about tomorrow when it gets here." In the past, companies took pride in the living that they provided to employees as well as the service they provided to the customer. Those days are gone. Now it's only about the money.

Unfortunately, the business managers have overlooked the nature of the markets they ply. The economy is a food chain. When enough workers are displaced, sales will decrease and profits will fall. Managers will try harder to reduce costs to make up the shortfall by outsourcing even more jobs, which further reduces the customer base in a cycle that can only end in destruction of the market.

Employing people is a very important part of the chain. Employed, productive people create the environment where consumer goods are desired and purchased.

—Kory Krofft, engineer

Survival, Not Selfishness
I think you ought to stick to CAD issues and not get into things you really know nothing about, like the economics of international competition and what it takes to survive in the marketplace. Those who speak against outsourcing usually do so because they attribute it to a selfish desire for increased profits, whereas in reality it is usually dictated by a need to stay competitive in order to survive.

—Philip Higley

Editors respond
Check out Outsourcing Outrage by Cadalyst Editor-in-Chief Sara Ferris, for her thoughts on this subject as well as links to other recent outsourcing articles from Cadalyst.

Go Home
As a loner operating out of my home for the past 10 years, I would like to suggest an alternative to outsourcing: home sourcing. Got a crackerjack drafter who wants to stay home with the kids? Got an engineer just grounded for DUI? Don't have enough work to keep someone puttering around the office, but when you need some help, you need it bad?

A couple thousand dollars and a high-speed line, and you have someone who understands you and can be understood.

Learn to manage by results instead of just looking for a******* and elbows, and you might be surprised.

—Walter E. Wallis, P.E.

Editors respond
As companies become more comfortable dealing with remote workers via outsourcing, they may well become more open to alternative working arrangements for regular employees. Many also have taken advantage of the outsourcing trend to set up as independent contractors, as shown by the two letters that follow.

Mind Blowing
Great article! I am an outsourcee, if you will, so I am in favor. I like the trend but don't understand why companies can't look for the future and hire as per need. As an example, I used to work for a highly regarded fixture company that just hires temps for manufacturing. The time and money spent on training, only to retrain someone else January 1st, blows my mind! But like I said, I do contract design work for them, so on this side it's nice! Great stuff, keep it coming!

—Jeff Brausen

What It Takes
I am a provider of outsourced mechanical design and drafting. I worked for many years at several companies where the perspective changed regarding who employees are and what they are worth. It seems they were no longer appreciated, and the mutual commitment that used to exist between employers and employees had vanished. I had always done part-time night work because none of the companies seemed to value or appreciate the people who were designing and drafting products and machines that they sold for millions of dollars.

When the last full-time employer decided to end its relationship with me, which allowed it to take its contributions to profit sharing back and return them to the coffers of the three guys on the top floor, I had so much part-time night work that I didn't have time to look for a job. That was in January 1995. I have continued since. I worked about 96 hours a week for the first three years. I have now decreased to about 80, give or take a few.

I have been able to contract work designing everything from high-tech powerful lasers, electron-beam accelerators, high-voltage and high-power electrical systems and components, to leading-edge optical systems, hyperspectral and multispectral imaging systems, medical devices and systems, automotive, aeronautic systems and tooling, through all kinds of out-to-consumer products, toys and appliances.

I was not really interested in being an independent, already aware of the hours required, but this was thrust upon me, and I have rolled with the punches so far. I did not like the hours I knew would be involved, but while working for these companies previously, I don't think I worked a 40-hour week twice. I always put in more time and more effort than I was paid to give. Now I collect on a few more of those hours than I did before.

One of the differences is that even though my hourly rate is slightly higher than a permanent employee, there is no overhead added (or multiplied), slight IGA, no holiday pay, no vacation pay, no insurance, no computer, no phone, no CAD software, no workman's comp, no rent, no electricity, no desk. I cover all these things myself. Also, I get paid only for hours I work. When the tasks stop, so does the billing. There is no requirement to keep me paid while tasks are at a standstill. This turns out to be very economical compared with permanent employees.

The biggest difference is that I have extremely powerful drive and determination to get the job done successfully, no matter what it takes. I have worked the most amazingly long hours on projects in critical times that have been of tremendous benefit to my clients and their contracts. I have appeared on site to confer with them at some of these times, and on Sunday and even on Saturday, the full-time employees did not even appear at work in spite of the emergency situations. These emergencies could cause loss of contract continuation, possibly resulting in loss of jobs for these permanent employees. This didn't seem to matter to them.

I get the job done, no matter what, and I am continuously in demand. I was this driven while a permanent employee at my last four or five positions, but this dedication was not appreciated and was seldom even perceived or recognized. Given these considerations, I feel outsourcing is not detrimental to me personally. Offshoring, I think, is a crime and ought to be controlled to protect the independence of our country and the financial stability of individual American workers. I mean workers, as distinguished from employees. We have to protect what we have here until it disappears.

—Ed Galicki

Call Me Al
If any AutoCAD user over 45 is a dinosaur, then I must be algae. I started on v2.16g in September 1986 when I was 43 (do the math). In all modesty, I think I can still find my way around 2007, which I teach to young whippersnappers who have never seen or heard of a slide rule, a T-square, a set square or a horsehair drawing brush.

And any time you want to go waterskiing, scuba diving, off-road motorcycling or skiing the double black-diamond runs at Whistler, give me a call.

—Bill Fane
Cadalyst contributing editor

Sound off on BIM
Cadalyst Web sites now feature a Comments area at the end of each article, where you can post your own thoughts and view others' feedback. Here's a selection of reader comments on a recent issue of AEC Tech News (Has BIM Simply Come to Mean '3D CAD'?):

Let us not forget our internal resistance as well. In one firm I know of, they still paste in individual details that are drawn scaled-to-fit, as though it was a paper drawing. This type of mentality, where a high dollar piece of software is used as little more than an electronic drafting board, will keep many firms from adopting BIM.

Sure, architects can model buildings down to the most minute elements and assemblies. We will take the time and effort to do it -- we'd even enjoy it, but how many of our clients are willing to pay for the increased fees to cover the time to make this happen? I think many of you already know that answer. So we'll focus on what is going to give us the most bang for the buck. 3D models will be the deliverable with the best return on time invested until clients (and professionals) can be convinced of the benefits of BIM.

I love BIM and have used it minimally in my office where I could, but in the end, it didn't really provide any tangible financial benefits . . . I know that BIM is still in its infancy, but it will be a long time before firms all over the place are willing to make the time and monetary commitment to using BIM for day-to-day projects.

I believe that BIM is a strategy of large software companies to hijack the work processes of the AEC industry. As more and more competitive software systems are beginning to challenge the traditional 2D CAD revenue base of the large software houses with non-BIM 2D and 3D software, it is imperative for these companies to move their user base onto products where there are fewer competitors -- namely BIM.

Drawings submitted for review typically must be sealed and signed by professional engineers, architects and surveyors, a conservative lot. Yes, one can scan signed final plots and submit bit-maps, with digital certificates attached, but digital certificates are not signatures.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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